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22 October, 2013

The Call of Christ - Part 1

Arthur Pink

"Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden—and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Familiar as is the sound of those words unto professing Christians—yet there is a pressing need for their careful examination, for there are few portions of God's Word which have received such superficial treatment at the hands of preachers generally, as has the above. That these verses, like all others in the Sacred Volume, call for prayerful meditation, some will formally allow—but that such a "simple passage" demands protracted study, few seem to realize. It is at this very point, that so much damage has been wrought. Many took it for granted they already understood the meaning of such a passage, and hence no diligent inquiry into the significance of its terms was undertaken. The mere fact that a verse is so frequently quoted that we are thoroughly familiar with its language, is no proof that we really perceive its purpose: yes, the fact that such familiarity has precluded careful examination renders it far more likely that we do not rightly apprehend it.

There is a vast difference between being acquainted with the sound of a verse of Holy Writ, and entering into the sense of it. 

The sad fact is that today there are thousands of unqualified "evangelists" and self-appointed open-air "speakers" who glibly quote snippets from the Word of God—yet no more understand the spiritual significance of the words uttered by their lips, than the telegraph wires understand the messages which pass over them. Nor is this to be wondered at. Ours is an age which is more and more marked by industrial loafing and mental slackness; when work is detested, when how quickly a task may be disposed of—rather than how well it may be done—is the order of the day. And the same dilatory spirit and slipshod methods mark the products both of the pulpit and the printed page. Hence the superficial treatment which the above passage commonly receives—no regard is paid to its context, no laborious attempt assayed to ascertain its coherence (the relation of one clause to another), no painstaking examination and exposition of its terms.

If ever a passage of Scripture was mutilated and mangled by preachers, its meaning perverted and wrested, it is the one quoted above. Nineteen times out of twenty only a mere fragment of it is quoted—that part which is most unpalatable to the flesh, being omitted. A particular call is twisted into a promiscuous invitation, by deliberately ignoring the qualifying terms there used by the Savior. Even where the opening clause is quoted, no attempt is made to show what is signified by and involved in "come to Christ," so that the hearer is left to assume that he already understands the meaning of that expression. The special offices in which the Son of God is there portrayed, namely, as Lord and Master, as Prince and Prophet, are ignored; and another is substituted in their place. The conditional promise here made by Christ is falsified by making it an unconditional one, as though His "rest" could be obtained without our taking His "yoke" upon us and without our "learning" of Him who is meek and lowly in heart.

We are well aware that such charges and strictures as we have just made, would be bitterly resented by a large class of church-goers, who do not wish to hear anyone or anything criticized. But it is not for them we write: if they are pleased to remain "at ease in Zion," if they are content whether they are deceived or not, if they have such confidence in men that they are willing to receive the most valuable and vital things of all second hand, if they refuse to examine their foundations and search their hearts, then we must "let them alone" (Matthew 15:14). But there are still a few left on earth who prize their souls so highly, that they consider no effort too great in order to ascertain whether or not they possess a saving knowledge of God's truth, whether or not they truly understand the terms of God's salvation, whether or not they are building on an unshakable foundation; and it is in the hope that the Lord may deign to bless these writings unto them, that we are penning the same.

But let us now take a closer look at our passage. It opens with "Come unto Me . . . and I will give you rest," and virtually closes with, "and you shall find rest unto your souls." Now it is not (as some have strangely supposed) two different rests which are here spoken of—but the same in both cases, namely, spiritual rest, saving rest. Nor is it two different aspects of this rest which are here portrayed—but rather the one rest is viewed from two distinct viewpoints. In the former, Divine sovereignty is in view: "I will give"; in the latter, human responsibility is being enforced: "you shall find." In the opening clause, Christ makes the bare affirmation that He is the Giver of rest: in what follows, He specifies the terms upon which He dispenses rest; or to express it in another way, the conditions which must be met by us if we are to obtain the same. The rest is freely given—yet only to those who comply with the revealed requirements of its Bestower.